About Me

I'm a 30-something girl shaping my life to be what I've always wanted. I've been incredibly fortunate to have never dealt with any major mental health issues despite both parents having many. I can't believe the luck and take none of it for granted. I hope to reach out to others who may live the same life.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Working with your hands blog

Lately I've been putting a lot of thought about how my job (and most other people's jobs who are paid via salary, for that matter) is mostly to create documents, but less to create tangible things that get used by the world. It seems like the higher up you move in life, the more this becomes a reality. Your job exists to create a concept rather than to create something real. I believe this is why I love activities like knitting so much. I can physically see progress. I can tell I'm getting something done, actually done. There is a certainty to it. Is it 30 inches long yet? No, keep going. Is it going to be wide enough? No, add more stitches. Easy enough.

Now, let's test a concept instead. Is it going to actually meet the objectives I have set for it? Not sure, test it over the course of a month with various groups of people, get it back and fix the glitch. Now test it again, go back to the document and do more tweaking. It's a long road to seeing that progress, and at times it is for nothing.

I wish I had written this entitled The Case for Working With Your Hands, by Matthew Crawford. He argues that working with your hands is actually more satisfying, in many cases. What makes people happy is something that varies on a regular basis.

A good quote from this article: "A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this." I feel like I have always gone into the field I have to do exactly that, have an effect on the world. It is seldom that you are actually made aware of that, save through evaluation. Again, another aspect of paper pushing.

So does schooling mean you will be in the money, or happy? According to Crawford, "A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive." I used to be one of those people who thought that those who did the labor jobs had simply not gone to college, or could not. They were not applying themselves to the best of their ability, and that they couldn't be as happy as me. Does this mean I am against the schooling I spent so many years obtaining? No. Does this mean I think it may be leading me to something that is slowly alienating me from the reason I began it in the first place? It's possible.

I once worked in the field of data entry, and almost weekly I heard stories about why my coworkers were doing this job rather than moving far away and seeing the world. They said, "I got married too young" or more commonly "I got pregnant and now I'm stuck here". I looked at that and thought, that won't be me. I will go to school for a rather long period of time and I will be living far away, and working high in an office. I will prove my success. I feel somewhat ignorant now for ever having had those thoughts in my head, let alone for so long. It's such a contradiction to believe that sitting in a classroom and spending tens of thousands of dollars is going to make you happy in the long run. I find myself longing to do things that immediately and locally matter.

Although there were the people who were unhappy where they were, there are just as many if not more that often are happy doing those jobs that have the tangible results. In fact, you hear all the time of the CEO who quit their six figure job to do something more real with their lives. They started a non profit. They opened their own business. They felt more alive than than they ever had wearing a suit and tie and sitting behind a desk. If you've ever seen the movie Fight Club, you know that making soap is more appealing to some than the nine to five. And that does not make them insufficient or incompetent in any way.

Have we gotten so technologically advanced that we bore even ourselves? We don't get to DO anything anymore. Machines do all the doing and we do the thinking for how to get more of the doing done. Hence the personal contradiction with sitting in an office that has blue brick walls and no windows while there is an entire world out there, if even only a few hundred yards from me, just doing.

If you've ever seen the movie Wall-E, you know what I mean. Wall-E is the salt of the Earth kind of "guy" while the rest of the world thinks he is crazy and even a little lowly for being who he was meant to be. So who really is more successful? The captain of the ship who flew so far away to do his job and is "making the shots"? Or maybe the machine that someone created who is really telling the captain what to do when it comes down to it. Or, is it Wall-E, who really gets the important things in life, even if he is doing the "grunt work". I realize having credentials on my resume has been immensely helpful, but in the long run, those are words that I personally typed up because words on another piece of paper that someone else typed up allowed me to. While those pieces of paper have alleviated boredom and have given me a sense of accomplishment and worth, I am still longing to just get my hands dirty.

I think back to David Orr's book Earth in Mind. Is it really worth worrying about a career behind a desk when you literally don't know how to survive? Or what is around you on a daily and yearly basis? It's come to the point where it's not even about wanting to save a species, it's more about knowing it exists in your back yard in the first place. We are at a disadvantage to do this because of the way we are trained from a very early age. We are told that being good at math and reading are excellent. We are praised for being able to add large numbers together, but are taught to shirk in fear from the slightest movement in the bushes, which often turns out to be nothing more than a bustling squirrel.

Overall, I look at this blog and think to myself that I may be on to something. How is it that a person in the EE (environmental education) field can do the work they set out to do-which is not only teaching but creating a sense of wonder and discovery in people-without losing the meaning behind it in the mix of paperwork and leadership? How do you move up without becoming someone who essentially just needs a business management degree? Maybe this topic would make a better research paper for my Master's than would a comparison of Thailand education with ours. While this would be rather interesting, I think I'll leave it to someone who has more heart in it.

I have always said I wanted to write something I was more passionate about and get things into perspective. I wanted to use it to make a difference. Maybe the very thing I am trying to accomplish, getting that last piece of paper with the oh so important words on it is the one thing holding me back from being passionate in the first place. I doubt anyone ever wrote a thesis about NOT doing what they were writing the thesis in order to do. Maybe a better topic would be: How do we go about working our way up the ladder in EE without being so far removed from the first "E" of EE? How do we continue actually TEACHING and seeing the learning happen first hand? After all, isn't the very point of environmental education all about DOING?

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